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Skaters often say, "I feel nervous," when, in fact, they really mean, "I feel adrenaline coursing through my body." Calm your nerves — not your excitement!

by Kim Hansen

Every ice skater who participates in Ice Sports Industry (ISI) competitions knows that they are fun. There are events for everyone. Skaters who like to do footwork can do an entire event of that. Those who enjoy theatrical performing can do a Solo or Couple Spotlight, Ensemble or Production programs. There are also Rhythmic events, Interpretive events, technical events and non-technical events. There is simple something for everyone — and that is fun!

But just because ISI is fun doesn’t mean that it isn’t competitive. Let’s face it, you aren’t going to travel across the United States to skate in an ISI national event and not feel some anxiety about wanting to perform and compete at your best. After all, a program is a program.

If, for example, you are skating an Open Freestyle program, you might just be doing that same program again a few weeks later at one of your local club events. Should you approach this differently? Isn’t this just a great opportunity to get out in front of judges and an audience? Remember, performing at your best is actually a learned skill and as with any skill, this takes practice. Miyamoto Musashi, an ancient martial arts philosopher and strategist, once said, “You can only fight the way you practice.” Taking every opportunity to skate under pressure will only make you a more skilled competitor.

There are other ways to enhance your ability to perform your best. This involves tailoring your mindset to be as positive as possible. It is nearly impossible to skate well if you are constantly criticizing yourself mentally. Recognize your strengths, celebrate your successes and “let go” of any errors when they occur. If you aren’t feeling overly confident, pretend that you are. Take on a whole character and play the part by imagining yourself at the best skater on the warm-up. This is one time in your life that you get to pretend to be a different you. No one even has to know. Smile confidently and feel the nerves slip away.

Calm Your Nerves — Not Your Excitement

Understanding your body will also help you. Skaters often say, “I feel nervous,” when, in fact, they really mean, “I feel adrenaline coursing through my body.” This hormone, which is produced during “stressful” situations, can actually help you skate faster, stronger and with more confidence — if you recognize that the side effects can be butterflies in the stomach and that annoying need to visit the bathroom just before you take the ice. Nervousness comes from being poorly prepared. Assuming you have done the work, practiced your programs diligently and trained as your coach has asked, this is not nervousness — this is EXCITEMENT!

Using mental imagery is another smart way to keep your anxiety at bay. Remember to arrive at the rink with plenty of time before your events to do your warm-up. Then, be sure to take some quiet time alone (with or without your music) to picture the program you are about to skate. Be bold and imagine yourself absolutely perfect — every step, every move: flawless. In the famous words of Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

There is no question that hard work and dedication are essential attributes of a successful competitor. But by keeping the philosophy of having fun and loving what you do in your mind when you go to competition, you will most certainly give yourself the best chance of finding your inner performer. ISI events are the perfect place to practice that philosophy!

Kim Hansen is the Ice Sports Industry (ISI) Skating Programs & National Events director. She can be reached at [email protected].

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